An affectionate but meticulously researched history of one of the most beautiful and best-loved corners of England – Crosthwaite Parish, nestling deep within the mountains and valleys of the Lake District.
Bounded by the peaks of Scafell, Skiddaw and Helvellyn, and embracing such well-known landmarks as Borrowdale, Derwentwater and Keswick, it lies within the heart of the Lake Poets' landscape and its rugged terrain excites passion in all those who know it.
The Parish also boasts a remarkable history. Its 90 square miles were governed, from medieval times, by eighteen annually chosen 'customary tenants'; ancestors of the people who later prompted Wordsworth's portrayal of the area as 'a perfect Republic of Shepherds and agriculturalists'. His fellow poet Robert Southey lived within the Parish for forty years, was an active parishioner and rests in St Kentigern's churchyard. Here he is given his rightful position as a Lake Poet. In the nineteenth century, the Victorian state killed off the old parish system, sweeping away the egalitarian rule of the Eighteen Men. But a degree of redemption was at hand. Canon Rawnsley, vicar of Crosthwaite from 1883, pledged to defend the Lake District for future generations. So the Parish was at the heart of the creation of the National Trust and blazed a trail for a wider movement to preserve the English landscape.
Writing with a historian's rigour and bearing aloft the banner of the Lake District statesmen, Philippa Harrison has produced a magisterial and fascinating record of a parish with a unique social, cultural and aesthetic resonance in English history.
Praise for Mountain Republic:
'Has there ever been a parish history so well-researched, so filled with history and literature, campaigns and causes, and so fascinating? No chance. This is a unique contribution to English history' Hunter Davies, author of Lakeland
'A delightful, refreshingly written book, attentive to social detail and telling the only story that matters – history' Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust 2008-2014
'I love Mountain Republic. Both intimate and authoritative, it is a wonderful book. The family portraits, in which Southey is rescued from near oblivion and given his due place amongst the Lake Poets, the agricultural detail, the historical sweep – all are brought together in a fine and gripping narrative' Margaret Drabble
'A completely fresh perspective on the Lakes and Lake Poets ... I hugely enjoyed it' Andrew Marr
'A remarkable chronicle of the parish of Crosthwaite, which covered most of the heart of today's Lake District ... A rare combination of finely detailed erudition and engaging, elegant, page-turning prose' Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester
'The fascinating story of Crosthwaite's ancient parish ... Stimulating, wide-ranging and full of interest' Angus J.L. Winchester, Emeritus Professor of History, Lancaster University